Christ missed

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    THE GHOSTS of Christmases past – with my sincere apologies to Dickens – still haunt this Yule present. As it was then, so it is now: Pray, tell, where is the Christ in this season dedicated to His very coming?

    I do not see Him in the frenzied shopping rush causing all those monstrous traffic jams around the malls. I find none of virgin conception, but everything of compulsive consumption offered, woefully, at capitalism’s unholy shrines.

    I fail to hear Him in the cacophony of sounds – from neither consumer noise nor the pipedin carols – at SM or Robinsons, Walter Mart or Nepo, or even Saver’s Mall. Above all the din, ear-splitting is the tinkling of cash registers – sweet, sweet music to some taipans’ long, long ears.

    Commercialization has taken over religion.

    An even more apt assertion: Commercialization is the new religion. People appear more zealously religious in going to the shopping malls than to churches.

    “We worship in churches, we shop at malls.” As that tarp at San Agustin church tries to right us.

    My religious sentiments still smart, remembering that television commercial of some years back of that American fast-food chain capitalizing on the pure-Filipino tradition of the nine-day dawn Masses to impact its commercial presence: Si_bang Gabi incomplete without the M, in the form of the logo of the food franchise. It is not only that burgers have taken over bibingka and puto-bumbong as after- Mass delicacies. The burger joints have taken precedence over the churches themselves.

    Pasintabi po lamang, Mayor EdSa, but I failed to sense the Christ too at the organized chaos at the Giant Lantern Festival event. The Christmas Star there inevitably devolving to a mere, albeit grand, spectacle of light from its sublime symbolism of love – the greatest manifestation of love that is the birth of the Christ.

    Pray, tell, who still know the meaning of the Christmas lantern?

    I remember my high school theology professor – the then-Rev. Fr. Paciano B. Aniceto – lecturing that the Christmas lantern took after the Star of Bethlehem that pointed to where the Christ was born and thereby guided both lowly shepherds and majestic magi to the manger.

    Hence – the good Apu Ceto explained – wherever the Christmas lantern is hoisted, posted or hung, there the Christ is, there His love is. The lantern being the Star’s representation.

    Thus, of all the symbols of Christmas – from mistletoes and Christmas trees to Santa Claus and the snowman – it is the Christmas lantern – our very own parul – that has the greatest, if not the only, theological value. Are we even remotely aware of this? Of that value invested in the lantern by the five-pointed star of its very shape or at its hub which makes it a parul?

    Indeed no lantern is a parul without the star.

    Star-struck we all are: always finding celebrities but little, if any, of the Christ in all those stars. Which this Christmastime also comes down from the celluloid firmament to regale us with that escapist farce that is the Metro Manila Film Festival. Ah, were the faithful as religiously devoted to Christ as to AlDub…

    So I grant that it is always SRO, standingroom- only dummy, at the churches the eve of Christmas Day, the worshipers even spilling out to the churchyards.

    Do they come to welcome their Savior? Or to show off their new clothes, to meet and joke with friends, to unleash their unruly children, to be and do just about everything but to worship?

    And so it always is that during consecration the loud clop-clop of some boys’ new pairs of shoes and the shrieks of little girls running by the very altar herald the transformation of the wafer into the very body of Christ and the wine into His very blood.

    Joy to the world, what lord has come?

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